Thursday, January 29, 2015

10 Favourite Jet Lag Reduction Tips

Image source: Brian Joseph
  • Hydrate with Fly1above – a brilliant product.
  • Set your watch to your arrival venue 2 hours before you board.
  • Don’t touch alcohol pre/during flight.
  • Wear flight socks.
  • Eat protein/veggies – avoid starch/fats.
  • Don’t work on the flight – read odd stuff, binge on some TV, sleep!
  • Go into low reactor mode – slow down heart rate, adrenaline output, and don’t get emotionally engaged in the inevitable lousy travel experience/service.
  • Budget a 3 hour rest, shower and 30 minute exercise break when you arrive/before you work.
  • Get to bed early day one, avoid screens, read and sleep!
  • Power nap for 30 minutes once/twice on day 2.

A Little Kindness Travels

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When it comes to sharing, studies have found that articles and video clips that trigger positive emotions, such as happiness, surprise or warmth, are more likely to go viral. No surprises then that random acts of kindness by strangers are frequently reported in the news or shared online. These stories remind us of the goodness in people and make us reflect on the importance of kindness.

Here are a few random acts of kindness in 2014 that will restore your faith in humanity. It’s the little things. Don’t forget that you can do your part too.
  • Instead of handing out tickets, police officers in Kansas City, Missouri handed out money to unsuspecting Americans, on a mission from a wealthy businessman known as ‘Secret Santa’. The people’s reactions are priceless.
  • A store employee at an Ormond Beach, Florida Publix Super Market was snapped helping an elderly man by bending down and tying his shoelaces.
  • A North Carolina high school student gave a pair of rare Air Jordans to a classmate after he noticed he was being teased about his old sneakers.
  • A ‘layaway angel’ paid off 150 layaway accounts totaling $20,000 at a Toys R Us store in Bellingham, Massachusetts.
  • Hair stylist Mark Bustos spends every Sunday giving free haircuts to homeless people on the streets of New York City.
  • Months before he died, Robin Williams made a video clip for a terminally-ill New Zealand woman whose bucket list included meeting Williams.
  • Luke Cameron, a 26-year old from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, performed one good deed each day in 2014, blogging about it on his Good Deed Diary.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Tipping Point and the Mona Lisa

Image source: Brian Joseph

The Tipping Point
, the transformational book by Malcolm Gladwell from 2000, describes “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or socialbehavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” The Mona Lisa is a famous painting by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci.

Notwithstanding the Mona Lisa’s innate quality, the serendipitous string of events that led to its tipping point – being considered ‘the greatest work of art ever’ – are fascinating. An article by Ian Leslie on More Intelligent Life discusses this and how a work of art comes to be considered great.

One aspect is the ‘mere-exposure effect’. Psychologist James Cutting studied whether this plays a role in which paintings achieve cultural status. His experiments, which were based around exposing people to images, were telling. Familiarity, even unconscious familiarity (i.e. flashing images that people didn’t notice), bred liking.

The other aspect is ‘cumulative advantage,’ a term used by sociologist Duncan Watts, who studied the history of the Mona Lisa. I’ll provide a potted summary here. For most of its life, the Mona Lisa languished in relative obscurity. It was in the Louvre, but it wasn’t in a prime spot. Then it was stolen and Parisians were aghast. They queued to look at the gap where it once hung.

Two years later, it turned up at a market in Florence. The Italians hailed the thief, an Italian carpenter, for trying to return the painting home. The French public was electrified. Newspapers around the world told the story and reproduced the painting in print. Global fame. Others used it to their own advantage – French-American painter Marcel Duchamp reproduced the Mona Lisa with a beard and moustache – reinforcing its status as an icon.

Leslie makes two simple points to renew a little faith. First, a work needs a certain quality to be eligible to be swept to the top of the pile – the Mona Lisa wasn’t in the Louvre by accident. Second, some stuff is simply better than other stuff. Also, the mere-exposure effect doesn’t always work – think of the last time you didn’t like something, but had to look at it on a regular basis. Chances are you grew to like it less, not more.

Leslie’s final remark suggests that we should take the greats with a grain of salt. “We should always be a little sceptical of greatness…we should always look in the next room… we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more exposed we’re to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Could You Ever Tell A Story This Way

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Traditionally, storytelling has tended to follow certain conventions. Aristotle told us a plot must be whole, with a beginning, middle and an end. Richard Linklater, Director of the Oscar-front-running film Boyhood, offered some suggestions on how to shake things up in a recent article on FastCo.CREATE.

Linklater’s approach is admirable and courageous, precisely because new forms of narrative have always been part of his thought process. For example, he continually asks himself, “Could you ever tell a story this way? Why wouldn’t that work?”

He took an ambitious gamble on Boyhood, which was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast. It paid off, recently winning three awards including Best Film at the Golden Globes and nominated for six Academy Awards.

Linklater’s keys to great storytelling are suitably bold.

First, just because you’re dancing to the beat of your own drum doesn’t mean structure isn’t important. Linklater says “find your form first.” The shape of a film’s narrative is a key decision. Get rhythm.

Second, storytelling is problem solving. Linklater had a problem – he wanted to express thoughts and experiences that were scattered throughout his childhood, which is hard to do in a movie. Boyhood was the solution – sure, one that seemed completely impractical at the time – but solved his problem nonetheless.

Third, trust your audience. Linklater says if the story has integrity, motivated viewers will work a little harder to follow the narrative. “I’m never trying to confuse anybody… If you establish rules and play by them, the audience will buy in… Once people are invested, it won’t be an issue.”

Fourth, sometimes you have to wait for technology to catch up with your ideas. New technology can provide a new way to tell a story. That was the case for Linklater’s Waking Life, which was something of a hybrid between real and animated film. He sat on that idea for 20 years until the right technology made it possible.

Five, art demands structure. Linklater says, “A film isn’t just a narrative; it’s a framework in which to create.”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Carefree Arizona

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Was at my place in Carefree, Arizona over the weekend (75°F vs 20” of snow forecast for NY!). Watched a fully grown mountain lion amble up the boulders outside the back walls, unhooked a 2ft long King Snake from the wire mesh around a lemon tree and sent him on his way, photographed three lean coyotes – one with a limping hind leg – on their loping dusk hunt through our (their!) land, and had a stand-off with a dozen javelinas protecting their new-borns on an early morning bike ride. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Tribeca.

Leave Nothing But Footprints
Take Nothing But Pictures
Kill Nothing But Time.

Service Is Everyone’s Business

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(Good) hospitality, which can be characterized in a nutshell as ‘efficiency and just the right degree of interaction’, isn’t just for hotels – it’s everyone’s business.

Customers have greater access to services and products and lower tolerance for shoddy service and obsolete technology. They’re outspoken about their experiences, and have a variety of outlets to voice their opinions after the fact. If you’re a reader of reviews, you’ll know that good hospitality makes all the difference. People rate service on expectations, value for money and hospitality. Three and a half stars is better than three. Four stars and you’ll expect something to be good. Five, excellent. It makes a company stand out from its competitors and it keeps customers coming back.

A recent article on The Telegraph highlighted that for hotels in Britain, standards have certainly risen and a more professional attitude pervades across the board. Branding, groups and chains are becoming the norm and with that comes difficulty in finding hotel service that is not merely efficient, but also characterful, genuine and warm. But it’s not impossible. My 12 favorite hotels certainly have my loyalty because of their depth, rhythm and authenticity.